Sat, 13 Aug 1994

Duo-pianists Iravati, Aisha a repeat success

By Gus Kairupan

JAKARTA (JP): It was almost one year ago that enchanted classical music lovers time and again broke into animated applause after the completion of each rendition at the Gedung Kesenian Jakarta.

They were applauding the composition and, even more, the artists Iravati and Aisha Sudiarso.

Blessed with many talented pianists, Indonesia, since then, can also boast ownership of a duo-piano team of a standard that places the mother and daughter among the ranking duos in the world. Ownership is not the right word here, they belong to a world that knows no national boundaries, the world of music.

Iravati and Aisha repeated their feat on Wednesday at the same venue, before an even larger audience. Tickets were sold out days before the event and many people were turned away at the box office that evening. This, if anything, is an indication of the very high standard of the two.

The compositions they performed were those of Bach (J.S.), Brahms, Khachaturian, Saint-Saens and Gershwin. To be exact, the Sicilienne from the Cantata no. 61, Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Three Pieces for Two Pianos, Introduction & Rondo, and Three Preludes. All, except Khachaturian's Three Pieces for Two Pianos were arrangements. Bach's Sicilienne was arranged for two pianos by Guy Maier, while Brahms originally composed the Variations for orchestra and then later arranged it for two pianos. Claude Debussy arranged Saint-Saens' Introduction & Rondo, and the two-piano version of Gershwin's Preludes was done by Gregory Stone.

I do not know how large their repertoire as duo-pianists is, but so far it is enough for two recitals (plus last year's opuses by Rachmaninoff, Poulenc, and Paganini arranged by Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski). Of course their repertoire will have to be expanded if Iravati and Aisha are considering becoming a regular duo. The literature of two-piano works is legion and includes many original compositions as well, both for duo-sec and duo plus orchestra.

There are concertos and sonatas by Mozart, Milhaud's utterly en-chanting Scaramouche, Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, which was originally for two pianos but was also arranged by him for two pianos and orchestra, the list is endless. Anyway, before putting together a program you must go through innumerable works to decide which ones would be suitable. Therefore, besides the ones they've already performed, they would be also well acquainted with many others. Perhaps we may well hear them play all Brahms' 16 waltzes for two pianos because they played one of them as an encore.

Iravati Sudiarso has long been one of Indonesia's foremost classical pianists, who, judging from the past five years or so, has performed and excited audiences here at regular intervals. She has devoted the major portion of her time to teaching, which, depending on how you look at it, is noble or a shame. Noble, because she guides youngsters who want to carve a career as classical pianists; a shame, because she should be performing more.

As for her daughter Aisha, in last year's review I commented that she is going from strength to strength. Well, if she becomes any stronger then we'll be in for something the likes of which has never been heard on Indonesian soil. Aisha, who recently earned her bachelor's degree at New York's Manhattan School of Music, is continuing her studies for a master's degree.

Fiery, cool

So what are these two like when they're on stage?

All artists have their own personality and way of looking at things which, of course, is the essential aspect of what makes them outstanding. Iravati and Aisha are no different, but strangely enough it is Iravati who seems to be more fiery than Aisha. I remember Aisha and a Korean pianist performing with the Long Island Youth Orchestra (a Mozart concerto for two pianos). I commented that whereas the Korean's playing was marked with sparkling brilliance, Aisha's was calm and cool but then she'd suddenly launch a shooting star of such musical luminescence to leave you breathless.

She shows a highly developed sense of coloring and the ability to apply those colors deftly and artistically.

Iravati's fire and elan and Aisha's cool and relaxed playing, interspersed with flashes of brilliance works very well.

Two different ways of approaching a work of music, two different temperaments meeting on the same ground and blending their efforts to come up with a sublime product... that's how it should be and that's what it was like Wednesday evening.